Category Archives: Menu plans

What Did We Eat This Week?–January 8, 2024

Every January, I like to go through cupboards, freezers and the pantry to really dig in and use up things that need using. I can’t really call it a pantry challenge, as so many on social media do, because I don’t plan to stop shopping. But, every year, I do reduce my grocery shopping in January and that’s what I plan to do this year, as well. At this point it is January 8 and I haven’t gone shopping since the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I will go soon, because I’m running low on eggs and milk.

I usually call it the “use-it-up” challenge, or something along those lines. The first thing I grabbed from the pantry was some bow-tie pasta that was getting near date. I cooked some and mixed it with some leftover cheese Alfredo sauce from Christmas Day. Some was eaten by one kid or the other and the rest went into this chicken noodle soup. The celery was some I froze from the garden, the carrots were some leftover baby carrots from the holidays and the broth was home-canned. The chicken was from a bag of thighs that seem to be getting a little freezer burned, but were still fine when I started getting into them.

I used some more of those thighs to make these taco bowls. I sautéed the thigh pieces and a bunch of onions from last summer’s garden in taco seasoning. I made brown rice for the base. There is a little more in the bottom of a gallon jar from a long-ago bulk purchase that I want to target for use in the next couple of weeks. I made guacamole from an avocado bought on sale, and added other toppings. We had the bowls twice. They were so good!

I dug out some ham broth from the freezer. I used more baby carrots from the holidays, a couple of potatoes, and some ham bits from the freezer with some lentils to make a soup.

We had home-made pizzas on the gf flatbread/pita bread I had made and frozen in December and had that twice.

I cooked a large batch of oatmeal with raisins for Malcolm to eat over a few days. He adores oatmeal.

I used home-canned corn, beans, broth, jams, fruits and more to add to meals. I also grabbed several frozen bits and pieces, such as frozen onions from 2018 (?really?-but they were fine), Anaheim pepper bits, a little baggie of pulled pork, hot dogs bought on sale, buns that were given to us a while back, and more. I threw away a couple of items that were beyond use.

It’s always exciting to me to see the little things I’ve saved get used. It’s food I’ve bought and paid for, grown, or at the least–put the effort and energy into cooking. I love using home-preserved food because that’s what I saved it for–winter.

I will not be that person who takes their pantry/freezers/canning shelf down to a small amount of food. The fruits and veggies need to last until next summer when I can grow or source some more. We get more beef in the fall. We may be getting 1/2 pig next spring and I just buy chicken and fish when I see good sales. But, with the large amount of jars of canned foods, 3 full freezers and a big pantry, I have no worries that I will run out. Even with the traffic that went through this house during the holidays, I can hardly see a dent in the canning. Partly that is because I’m putting most of the empty jars away in boxes and taking spare jars from boxes where I stored them so it still looks very full although we’ve eaten quite a bit.

I do want to keep things fresh, and rotate things. We’ve gone through all the freezers in the past few months, and I inventoried and sorted all canning last summer. The pantry in the garage has been cleaned as well a few months ago. So things are good right now and I want to keep them that way. I’m excited about seeing how this project goes during the next month and plan to see evidence of my efforts in the form of some empty spots here and there.

How about you? Do you do a pantry challenge in January? Or some kind of modified one with your own rules? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments below!

January Cooking From Storage–2022

I have been cooking from my storage so much this month, it warranted it’s own post. I have a lot of pantry items, purchased in bulk. I also have a lot of home-canning and freezing. I am always inspired to really dig in and use up a bunch of it every January. I did not do any kind of a special pantry challenge, as you read about on the internet–the kind of challenge where you don’t shop at all, or use a certain number of jars per day, or any other fun game, even though the challenges some people come up with sound like lots of fun for those who do them. Instead, I just tried to find some items on my pantry shelves that had been there for a while and use them up, along with the usual jars of home-canned and the frozen containers of food, mostly from the top of the chest freezer, if I’m honest, because I could grab them in a hurry.

I found some red beans that I’ve had for a long, long time. We’ve been using pinto beans so much lately that the red ones have been ignored. I tried making chili one day and didn’t soak them long enough and didn’t add enough liquid for such old beans. I had a hard time getting them to soften. In the end, I used my Instant Pot to cook both the chili and the beans I wanted to freeze to use later on and it did the trick. I now have a large bowl of them soaking. I will soak them for a couple of days in lots of water and then just use the Instant Pot to cook them. Then, I will freeze in meal-sized portions. Then, I will do it again until they are gone. There’s at least another gallon out there that doesn’t need to linger longer.

I am making refried black beans right now. By morning, they will be cooked and I will grind them with my stick blender, serve some right now and freeze the rest for later. I have a recipe, which I did make this week, that uses them. I was going to buy a can for next time, then realized I had lots of black beans and I could make my own. (I usually use pintos for my refried beans). The recipe has a masa crust with chili powder, green onion and other spices. You bake that. Then, you spread with the refried black beans and cheese and after baking that a little while, you can add taco toppings like tomato and cheese if you want. It’s a bit like a pizza, but not quite.

I fed Patsy several frozen burritos. When I have beans cooked, I take tortillas and fill them with brown rice and beans, cheese and a little salsa. Then, I roll, wrap in foil, and freeze for quick meals. There are a few frozen ones left, then I need to make more.

I made apple crisp more than once this week. Rob’s sister gave us another large box of apples so that’s become my go-to dessert.

We’ve had frozen corn, canned corn, canned green beans, used canned carrots and frozen and canned broth in chicken-rice soup, plus had lots and lots of peaches, cherries, pears and applesauce. We also eat relishes, pickles, and jams every week. We have been eating the peas and broccoli I grew and froze, along with frozen peaches, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and any other fruit I can find in the freezer. We’ve also used frozen onions and peppers of assorted varieties in cooking and lots of onions from our garden, which are storing well.

I cooked 4 Butternut squash. Some was cut in cubes and roasted and some was cut in half and baked and mashed. We were given quite a few of these squash by Rob’s uncle and cousin, who grow a garden together. Mac loves, loves, loves squash. I froze a bunch to make meals easier.

If you are wondering why he has 2 pony tails, it’s because his Mama got his little, tiny braids undone over a couple of days and had the hair pulled back so as to not tangle up too bad. When she gets enough time, since she’s working a lot right now, she will re-braid his hair up into the little braids she likes him to wear. It will likely take her a couple of days to get it done, as it’s time-consuming and he doesn’t like it being done, so it’s a battle.

I cooked both brown and white rice. The white is the most popular around here with the kids, so I did that more than once. Rob likes brown, so he ate all I had frozen, and I made more.

I used a lot of thighs and drumsticks I had frozen. I also used hamburger, turkey burger, and bits of turkey and chicken I had previously cooked and frozen. I made home-baked chicken nuggets and also home-baked fish sticks. The fish was some kind of frozen white fish I got at Grocery Outlet for $2 for a pound. I bought 3 bags. It’s good. I wish I had gotten more, but you never know until you try unknown items from there, and I haven’t been back in that area. Since things fly out of that store, it’s not worth an extra trip to see if they have any left. So, I’ll be happy for the 3 bags I did get.

There were lots of other things I cooked, as well, like scrambled eggs almost every day for breakfast. We did use some oatmeal, cereal, pancake mix and other items as well, but eggs are our breakfast most days. We’ve baked several items, pulled some from the freezer, made pear-raspberry popsicles, and other things I’m sure I can’t quite remember.

What did we do with the grocery money we saved? I ordered from Azure Standard. I got some cleaning supplies and some more bulk food to fill up empty gaps in the pantry, including a 25 lb. bag of gluten-free flour, which cost almost $50, right there. I took Jake (my nephew) and Patsy to Grocery Outlet and let them buy snacks of their choice for a “party” when he spent a few nights. (That means eat snacks and watch a movie–we’re not very wild partiers around here.). I bought produce and dairy products and I sent Rob and Michaela (my niece) to Costco for things like Ziplocks, deodorant, and a hot dog, of course–her favorite lunch in the world!

If you think I cook a lot for 3 people, you are right. I don’t cook for 3 people, actually. It’s not uncommon for me to feed 4-6 extra people on any given day, and one day this week, I fed 17. So, when anyone offers me food of any kind, I gratefully say “thank you!” and add it to my storage. Sometimes I have to can or freeze it, sometimes I don’t, but it’s all welcome and used.

I’m so thankful that we are able to easily feed so many people on our grocery budget (around $300/month). I haven’t sent out a meal for a long time, but this week, Rob delivered two meals for some friends who needed them. (They both got home-canned corn (I cooked it so all they had to do was warm it), BBQ’d chicken, salad, a few oranges, and of course, apple crisp!) The girls and babies are here quite often. My niece and nephew are, too. I love to cook for my family and friends, and a large food storage lets me indulge my little hobby!

The Lord always blesses us–it seems food pours in here faster than I can cook it up sometimes. I feel very grateful and blessed, especially in light of all the bad news I always hear of shortages, supply chain issues and items being unavailable. We are not suffering one bit around here. Occasionally, an item is not on the shelf at the store. We simply eat something else, and we are fine and full. After all, sometimes a new recipe can become a family favorite. Who knows?

Menu Planning For Another Covid Shut-Down–November, 2020

The past few weeks, I’ve been doing some menu-planning. I don’t always do this, but I want to be sure to rotate the canned and frozen foods I have on hand, with the fresh ones, and use my summer’s bounty as wisely as possible. We also have some food-challenges I need to work with. Rob watches his weight, and doesn’t want to gain back the large amount of weight he has lost over the past couple of years. I am diabetic, so watch my carbs. I am also completely gluten-free, as wheat makes me very sick.

On Friday, the governor of Oregon declared that we would have a Covid “freeze” starting Wednesday, Nov. 18. Basically, this means stay home as much as possible like we did last spring, with a few differences. This made my planning slightly different. It’s not like we’ve been going lots of places or visiting around the state, but we will stay home even more, including on Thanksgiving Day. It will be the smallest Thanksgiving dinner I can remember, with only Rob, Patsy and myself on the guest list at this time.

I had done my planned shopping last Tuesday. It was the first shopping I’d done for over 10 days, as we have been utilizing our food storage, and I just needed a few things. Once this “freeze” was announced, our daughter asked Rob to take her shopping, as she doesn’t drive, and she wanted him and his car to haul it home. I had him pick up a few more items while he was out and about with her Saturday morning. They were necessities, like a couple more gallons of milk, more carrots, a couple extra cartons of eggs, and…… a bucket of vanilla ice cream….I had to scoop it into quart cartons to fit it in my bulging freezers, but I did it! We should easily be set for a couple of weeks. Then, when picking up prescriptions Saturday, I grabbed a little more produce to top things off. I’m missing my garden this week, that’s for sure.

Thankfully, we are loaded up with toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Our neighbor behind us told us today that he had just been to Costco today, and they were wiped out of t.p. and the place was “swarming” with people grabbing everything they could.

I’ve been to JoAnn’s and have plenty of elastic:) and projects to sew. (Priorities, right?)

I have powdered milk to use in a pinch, and lots of dry goods and cans in the garage, and all my home-canned and frozen foods, my 1/4 beef we just picked up last week and 3 turkeys and 2 hams. I have some other meat and fish, chicken and a little bit of pork. I have scads of frozen butter, as it has been on sale a lot lately. In fact, my autistic niece Michaela things I’m hilarious to have so many boxes of butter. She laughed and laughed when she saw them. It made her very happy. I think she likes knowing where to come for one of her preferred foods:)

I’m actually in better shape with my food storage than I was last spring. Now’s the time to use it. If I don’t manage my food storage, things might get too old, forgotten, or otherwise wasted. I don’t want that. I’ve worked too hard for this food.

When I menu plan, I use a very old-fashioned composition book and a pencil, as I have for years. I look on the shelves and in the freezers to see what’s there, especially if it has been there for a while and needs to be targeted, and look at our schedule for the week to know when I have time for long-cooking things like dry beans or making bread. This used to be more important when I was going more places, but it is still nice to have some days with less cooking than others. I make out suggestions for myself, always knowing I will add canned and frozen fruit each day, and I do it in pencil because I often change my mind!

In case you don’t have a magnifying glass to read the menu plan above, it is a loose, working framework of a menu plan with lots of ideas, many of which will get changed before the week is over, but most will be eaten as planned. I include lists of things to buy, make or do.

Soups include: Ham and bean, split pea, Oriental Pork Soup, Chicken Stew with Peppers, Black Bean Taco Soup (Not listed, but Patsy decided to cook that for her school cooking lesson on Wednesday) and Potato Soup (not listed, but made).

Breakfasts: pancakes, muffins, eggs, hot cereal, cold cereal, fruit

Lunches: sandwiches, salads, leftovers/soups

Main dishes: frozen salmon, spaghetti pie, tamale pie and pizza, leftovers. I try to vary the protein during the week, using beef, chicken, occasional pork and fish, and dry beans.

This week’s menu contains more casseroles than normal. Rob and I usually eat much more low-carb than this. Patsy likes things like pizza, Mexican food and spaghetti better. So, it’s a balance to please everyone. I expect if I post any more menus in weeks to follow, you will see more meals such as chicken with salad, green beans and a baked potato for those who want one, instead of spaghetti pie, as that is more typical for us.

At every lunch and dinner, I usually serve 1 or 2 vegetables, rotating between broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans and any other veggie I can come up with. I often use cabbage or lettuce for salads as one of the veggies. Rob often makes salad with some bits of chicken on top his main meal, even if a casserole is available, and 1/3 to 1/2 or even more of our plates are normally full of some kind of vegetable or salad. Fruit is always available, canned or fresh. I rotate starches. Rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. are our go-to choices. Gluten-free pasta is not inexpensive like the wheat kind, so it’s a good thing we want small portions of it anyway, and we eat it only 2-3 times per month, on average. Potatoes and rice make the list more often, but a 10-pound bag of potatoes can easily last a month around here most of the time.

Sunday, for instance, I wrote muffins and apple crisp to go with our split pea soup. I got the split pea soup made, got sucked into a tree-falling project, and didn’t cook anything else from the list. It filled us up just fine. On Tuesday, I changed from meatloaf to spaghetti pie when I realized that there was sauce to use up in the fridge. Still, planning ahead reminds me of what I need to use up. It gives me a written list to refer to when I’m in a hurry to get started cooking and also helps me remember what to thaw out or if I’m supposed to soak beans ahead of when I need them. The age-old problem of “what shall I cook today” only has to be faced once a week, not daily, but I don’t feel locked into the list. If I feel like cooking something else, I just use my eraser.

I also write a list of things to cook or bake and often make things ahead of when they are needed, when I have spare moments. My freezer is usually filled with little cartons of broth, baggies of cooked brown rice and cooked pinto and other beans, containers of cornbread, baggies of bread or muffins, and so forth, for quick meals. There’s always a frozen casserole or two and soup to warm up in a pinch, since life doesn’t always read the list before throwing things our way:)

This week, I wanted to use dry beans a time or two, as I want to target stored foods, so I put down split pea soup and ham and beans, using the ham bone/broth/bits I made last week from a ham bone. The split pea soup met my criteria for at least one meatless meal each week. Rob and I have been doing that since last spring. It isn’t vegetarian, because I used ham broth, but is close enough for our purposes. I find that if I don’t plan to use the beans, we don’t use them often enough.

Last spring, when the pandemic started, dry beans were very hard to get around here. Rob finally found some pinto beans we needed after searching several stores, but the only way to buy them was in a 50 pound bag. We didn’t need that many, but it was that or nothing. So, he paid around $22 or so for that huge bag of beans, which seemed very inexpensive to me. You understand, then, why we have pinto beans so frequently. Even though I’ve shared small amounts with any family members who want them, I still have a lot left. I’m not afraid of buying in bulk, though. I re-package bulk items into glass jars and plastic ice-cream tubs and things last a long time in our cool garage. The key is to regularly use those bulk items so they don’t get too old.

He also picked up a 25 pound bag of gluten-free rolled oats for $5 and a 50 pound bag of Jasmine rice for $10, and 25 pounds of powdered sugar for $5, during the summer, because they were damaged (not all on the same trip). My brother-in-law jokes that when Rob goes to the store, God calls down to the workers, “break that bag NOW, cut that open on accident right now, mark it down quick! Here comes Rob.” I just know He takes really good care of us and our needs are always met.

I wanted a couple of crock pot meals, and especially one on Thursday when we care for both my niece and nephew all day. I found a recipe for an Oriental pork soup in one of my cookbooks, which I am changing to use up some canned baby corn we were given in a box of canned goods a while back. They were things Rob’s mother was given and couldn’t use, so I’ve been trying to target them. Since baby corn is not something I buy or regularly use, if I don’t make the effort to use the can, it will still be there next spring! I’m going to make it more like Chinese chow mien instead of soup, and am going to use a can of bean sprouts and some ground pork I have had for quite some time. When someone offers me food, I always say, “yes, please” and “thank you” and then find a way to use it. If I absolutely cannot, I pass it on to someone else.

I still have cabbage in the garden. I got a good amount of winter lettuce on Monday morning, some leafy celery, a little kale, some cilantro, and left some other things out there that I fear will not ripen before spring, if then. Rob’s tissue-wrapped green tomatoes are still ripening, and my cherry tomatoes that were picked green are ripening as well. There are still apples from my sister and lots and lots of onions in the back shed. I plan to use frozen and canned veggies frequently, and perk things up with the fresh ones here and there. I have fresh celery, carrots, potatoes, head lettuce to mix with the leafy lettuce from the garden, some mushrooms, a couple of cucumbers and zucchinis and some bananas and mandarins from the store. Much of that will easily last 2 weeks. We will use anything that might rot this week, and switch over to more preserved foods next week.

We will eat our way through the menu I wrote this week, then I will make another one for next week, moving any meals over to the next week that were not cooked or eaten this week. I planned lots of meals with leftovers since I don’t want to waste food. If there aren’t enough leftovers, I have frozen burritos I made for Patsy, and she loves peanut butter sandwiches. Rob and I love salad or soup, so I can always made another pot of soup if needed or try another recipe from a cookbook or magazine.

One other thing we tried last week was picking up a “to-go” lunch at the local school. We had not done that yet, although they have been available since last March. I had Jake and Patsy last Wednesday and wanted an activity for them, so I suggested taking them to get a bag of lunch, and they could see if they liked any of the things in it. We drove to the school and…..whoops!–Veteran’s Day–no lunches. So, the next day Rob drove them down and they each got a lunch. Each bag had a carton of milk, a carton of chocolate milk, a piece of pizza, an apple, an orange, some baby carrots, and one had a corn dog and the other had a hot dog. That was an awful lot of food, I thought! They ate what they wanted. They shared the rest. Michaela was thrilled to drink some milk from a little carton, and I was so happy she actually ate an apple, once I sliced it and added some peanut butter. She’s too old for the program, but the other kids shared their excess with her. I was glad there was some extra for her, since she was feeling left out. (I have apples and milk here for her, but I think it was the little carton….). Jake can’t have milk anyway, so it all worked out. Besides, he wanted cornbread, his favorite right now. So, everyone was happy. I think I will take them back at least once this week, and stretch those groceries just a little farther.

I’ll be the first one to admit that managing my food storage is a big job. Planning, home-preserving, rotating the food, cooking mainly from scratch…it’s all work. But, it’s worth it to me. I can keep my grocery bill much lower than many people can, and we can stick to our specialized diets while doing so. We are able to eat a healthy, varied diet that is far beyond the ramen noodles typically thought of as “budget food” and it tastes much better to us. Jake, on the other hand, LOVES ramen noodles, so I don’t have to worry about budgeting large sums to feed him when he’s here:). So, when planning your menu, find what works for you, and go for it! We are all different in what we like, want or need, but a little planning can keep everyone happy, healthy and well fed, even during a Covid freeze:)

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–November 9, 2020

When we take care of Jake and/or Michaela, we always try to get some exercise with them.

One day, we walked across the Willamette River on a foot bridge, looked for rocks, and walked back across.

Everyone had fun and we got a good walk in. Since we did get a little rain it’s been a challenge to fit exercise in at times when it wasn’t raining, but Rob and I got several walks in here and there.

Rob took Michaela and Patsy up to the wood-cutting place one day. He got a little bit of wood, but mostly they had a picnic lunch and looked at some horses in a field, and enjoyed nature. He didn’t cut very much wood last week at all, because it rained some, and he had other things to do, but he did get a couple of loads. He’s back up there today.

Rob covered the wooden tomato cages with plastic and we put them over some of the fall/winter vegetables.

He also made a cover for the raised bed in hopes of babying along the veggies in there.

He’s got a batch of lettuce growing in the greenhouse. We are hoping the get it big enough to get a cutting or two. The greenhouse is not heated, so hopefully we will have some sunny days and it will be warm enough for it to grow in there.

When I discovered one of his geraniums he started from a cutting was blooming, I brought it into the house to cheer things up.

The cherry tomatoes I picked right before frost continue to ripen. It wasn’t hi-tech. I pulled off the clusters, left the stems on, and put them in a 9×13 pan on the dog’s kennel in the garage. Rob’s larger tomatoes he wrapped in tissue are ripening as well, but some are a little less than stellar. Still, we are getting enough that I haven’t had to buy any tomatoes yet. We finished up the garden lettuce I picked and had cabbage and broccoli from the garden to work with.

We thawed one of the 10 pound bags of hindquarters we got a while back for $2.90. I baked 1/2 with rosemary, de-boned it, froze the bits and made broth with the rest. It will be for casseroles. Rob BBQ’d the other 1/2 and we ate some and I made enchiladas for dinner tonight with 2 thighs.

We had potato soup, chicken-rice soup, and chili. I split one pound of hamburger between the chili and some chili-mac. I’m finding it best to try not to make huge batches of things these days. As it was, we had leftovers several times as I find it impossible to make tiny batches of either soup or chili. It comes in handy to have some leftovers, as there are times when we are in a huge hurry to eat, just not too much of the same food so we don’t have to eat it over and over for a week:). I made some chicken thighs with a honey -soy sauce glaze, pineapple, onion and peppers (I used frozen bits from our garden). It was really good. I baked blueberry muffins, cornbread, cherry crisp and a pizza.

I did a menu plan for the first time in a long time, and we stuck to it for the most part. I just used the same system I used for years, off and on, in the past. I write things down in pencil in a composition notebook, and also add in appointments or places we are going to plan meals according to our schedule. Then things are easily changed if they need to be. I often switch and swap meals within the week, or completely change things up at times. They are just suggestions. I don’t choose recipes and then go to the store for ingredients. Instead, I see what I want to use from my freezers and cupboards, then choose recipes or meals. Only then do I add an ingredient to my list, if necessary. This helps me remember to rotate the vegetables in the freezer, target pieces of meat that need to be used, or finish up things in the fridge or cans or packages of food on the shelves that should be targeted because they are getting older. It also saves me a ton of money when I’m well stocked, like I am now after canning and freezing all summer.

This week, I didn’t need anything more, so we skipped the regular grocery store. At the end of the week, I did send Rob to the bulk restaurant supply store with $30 for “to-go” coffee cups and lids, a large salad dressing and boneless-skinless chicken thighs. He got 2 bags of the chicken, and a couple of other things, along with the list, and came home with $3 in change. Go, Rob!

We emptied many, many jars of home-canned items and used a lot of frozen vegetables and meat. I also pulled quite a few items from the pantry shelves to use. Our bulk beef is ready to pick up and I need room in the freezers, which was good motivation for me last week. I went ahead and made a menu for this week, again, since it worked so well.

It’s nice to have so many good things to choose from, a cozy fire and lots of projects to work on.

Picnic Packs

We have a lot of picnics planned in the near future. The weather has been getting nicer and nicer and there are a lot of fun activities planned.

I decided to make my life easier by planning ahead for these picnics.

First, I went to Winco and purchased a bag full of munchy, yummy and non-perishable snacks. My criteria was simple: They had to be inexpensive or on a good sale, and be something I thought some of the kids would eat. I got little boxes of raisins using Ibotta rebates to bring the cost down. I got Lay’s chips in a tube so they wouldn’t crush and Winco chips for another time, since they were only around $1.50/bag. I put this bag in a safe place so the goodies would be there for the picnics.

Then, I had a baking day. I made many containers of cookies and several loaves of zucchini bread from frozen zucchini from the garden. I froze these items in containers that would be easy to grab when packing the picnic. I actually have a couple other items that I want to make and freeze when I get the time.

Finally, I went to Fred Meyers and got 4 boxes of soda on the 4/$10 sale.

I will make sandwiches, pack baby carrots, and whatever else I feel like on the day of the picnic and then grab items from these stashed items to make up the rest. Since these picnics are with various kids, they each like what they like, so I’ll pack accordingly.

We have a picnic tomorrow–we are taking Patsy, our adult son, Anthony, Allison (the love of his life), and our niece, Michaela, bowling. Then, we will go to a park and eat. It should be a lot of fun as long as I remember lots of peanut butter sandwiches:)

What Did We Eat? And, Feeding a Crowd From the Pantry And Sales–April 4, 2019

When I returned from camping last Friday, I hit the ground running. With my daughter home from Hawaii for a few days and a big birthday party to plan for her, the camping things to put away and the house to clean and lots of cooking to do for the large amount of people who were coming, I decided not to use any of the precious time to go to the store. Instead, I tried to figure out what I could make from my freezers and pantry.

I was delighted to find a few volunteer green onions and some cilantro growing in the garden.

I made cake and mixed fruit crisp. There were blackberries, rhubarb and peaches in it, topped with an oatmeal crisp. The birthday cake was a tried and true gluten-free recipe, and I used up the last scraps of sour cream from camping in it.

Rob BBQ’d chicken with some of the bargain chicken he got a couple of weeks ago and he did salmon. One large piece was a gift a friend gave us a while back and the other smaller package was from Safeway, purchased on one of their Friday specials. I used the green onions in twice-baked potato casserole, so I could make it the day before and warm it on Sunday. In there, I used sour cream, cream cheese and cheddar, in small quantities because that’s what was in the fridge. I served home-canned green beans and home-frozen corn as well, and one of my sisters brought a large broccoli salad. It was delicious. There were hardly any leftovers at all.

To fill in, we had things that were left from camping such as lunchmeat, cheese, extra salad ingredients, etc. Rob used the cilantro in some turkey burger, which he fried as taco meat and topped salad with.

On Tuesday, it was our turn to feed the college group. Alissa, our niece, helped us. They got bargain chicken, which Rob applied a rub to and cooked on the BBQ. He then transported it in 2 crock pots, with a little water in them to keep it moist. It worked well.

We baked potatoes and kept them warm in the roaster. We bought rolls at the bread outlet. We made green salad, rice salad and put out toppings for the potatoes.

Alissa decorated some box-cake mixes I baked up.

They looked very springy and festive. We were able to stay way under their budget for that project, mostly due to the bargain price we got on chicken a couple of weeks ago. As usual, the group was very hungry and very appreciative. There were about 35 people there, but there was plenty of food and even some leftovers. For that group, when you are cleaning up, you package the leftovers in baggies, take-home containers, little cups….whatever works, and the kids take it home for their lunches the next day. It’s a good system for everyone.

The only shopping for myself this week was a gallon of milk, which I grabbed when I was shopping for the church group. I’ve been making things like muffins and vegetable soup, and odds and ends. Of course, we ate at church Tuesday night, with the college kids.

My grocery plans for April are pretty simple. I want to have a lower-shopping month again, as far as it is possible. January was very low-spend, low-shop. February and March were big shopping months, as I had run out of quite a few things and found some great sales, so I stocked up. I was also given a lot of food in March, including 1/2 pork (we paid cut and wrap, but our friend gifted us 1/2 a pig he raised), a 25-lb bag of gluten-free flour, and more. There are a few more volunteer items in the garden. Now, it’s ridiculous in the garage! The shelves are full. There is extra food on the table that won’t fit on the shelves. The freezers are absolutely crammed! What a delightful “problem” to have! It’s time to use up things again. This keeps my stock rotated, my grocery bill averaged out for other “high-need” months, and I can put any extra into the envelope to put towards the beef we buy each fall. Of course, I will continue to buy produce and dairy products, along with Jake and Michaela specific foods for when they are here and grab any super bargains I find.

What Did We Eat? March 30, 2019

This week, we ate quite simply, but it was delicious! We were camping at the beach all week, but we came back and forth several times, using home as our landing spot, so to speak. We did this because Patsy had an event she wanted to attend with the church youth group that lasted 2 nights, and Lovana was flying in from Hawaii. It was up to us to ferry everyone back and forth. So, several meals were eaten in the car, from items packed in a small cooler. Others were eaten at home from odds and ends we dug up, and the rest were eaten in the camper at the beach.

All except one. Rob and I took the occasion to go out to dinner on Sunday night last week. It is so rare for us to have an evening of our own that we wanted to do something special, so we went to a restaurant at the beach and had seafood dinners! Yum:)

Rob cooked on his little camping barbecue several times. He made chicken, steak and mini pizzas. We started with pre-made gluten-free crusts, decorated them, and he cooked them. If you try it, use plenty of foil and don’t turn the BBQ up too high or they burn. After a little practice, they turned out amazing:)

I had made and frozen split pea soup, packed potato salad and chicken for the first day, and had plenty of veggies and salad fixings. We bought salad shrimp twice and I had hard boiled eggs as well. We used home-canned soup and beans and made a lot of eggs and pancakes. We like it simple when we are camping.

I took the opportunity to sort through the camper cupboards and pulled out mixes, rice, and other items that had been there longer than I like. I brought in the things I didn’t use on the trip, and I’m systematically sorting them–they are getting used very soon, or discarded if they are no good. I’m going to replace several items before we go camping again, either from the store, or from my cupboards at home.

We had a good time, rested a lot, visited with Lovana, and took a lot of naps. I was able to get down and walk on the beach several times. Although the weather was not sunny all the time and we had a few super rainy days, there were plenty of good-weather days, as well. We got home yesterday, and hit the ground running. Lovana is off visiting some of her many friends, and I’m cooking up a storm so we can have a big birthday party after church tomorrow for her. It should be fun!

What Did We Eat? March 23, 2019

The main, stand-out new recipe I made this week was lentil tacos. I made them in the Instant Pot, using a recipe from the internet. (There are several recipes, which are all about the same on there). It’s just lentils, salsa, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and water. Rob really liked them, also.

I made potato salad, Rob grilled chicken a couple of times, and we had as many leftovers as we could eat to clean the fridge. Of course salads were frequent, as always.

We’ve been eating a lot of soup, and had turkey-vegetable and chicken-rice several times.

It wasn’t a super exciting food week, but there was plenty to eat! Some weeks are just ordinary and this was one of them.

What Did We Eat? March 16, 2019

This was a very busy work week. On several occasions, we just ate over at my sister’s house, since we were all there so much. 2 of those nights, we ate leftovers from a meeting they attended Sunday, so that was easy! My aunt dropped in to check on Jake one night and stayed and ate with us, so that was a nice addition:). She brought him some of his favorite cookies and he ate exactly 1 before falling asleep…

On Wednesday morning, I had a few hours. I made 3 kinds of soup–split pea, chicken-rice, and vegetable-chicken. I used the broth and bits from the Costco chicken to make the 2 chicken kinds, so they have very little meat in them, but still taste really good. The split pea is vegetarian. I hauled some of the chicken-rice soup over to Jake, who ate it for dinner the next 2 nights. His mouth is healing, but slowly. The second set of antibiotics helped him heal more, but he had a very rough time of it for a few days.

On Wednesday morning, I cooked up an Instant Pot of brown rice. Part of it was combined with frozen turkey bits, broccoli from last year’s garden, cheese, and a sauce made from milk, sweet rice flour to slightly thicken it, dried onion, a can of mushrooms, salt and pepper. It was really, really good. I took some of it over to my sister’s for Thursday night’s dinner. My aunt brought over some salad fixings she wasn’t going to be able to use up before they went bad, and we made salad to go with the casserole.

The rest of the brown rice was combined with previously cooked and frozen pinto beans (thawed out of course), cheese (including some Cojita cheese I got for my Friday Freebie a couple of weeks ago), salsa and a little enchilada sauce, both home-canned last summer. I wrapped this filling in tortillas, then foil, then labeled and froze for quick dinners for Patsy when Rob is home with her and I’m at work. She loves them and ate most of the ones I made a few weeks ago.

Our daughter, Lovana, plans to come visit later in the month, and she is a vegetarian. I froze some of the burritos and some of the split pea soup to have on hand while she’s here. Since she lives in Hawaii now, she’s sure she going to freeze to death here, but I assured her she can wrap up in how ever many of her Dad’s old coats she wants to:)

I made a turkey enchilada from the turkey bits in the freezer. With the 2 casseroles I made this week, I was able to finish that fairly large bag of turkey bits up before they lingered too long in the freezer.

The past 2 weeks haven’t been the easiest, but with everyone pulling together, we’ve all been able to eat tasty, healthy, economical meals. This week will have a much lighter schedule. Whew!!!

What Did We Eat? March 1, 2019

This week, I made gluten-free pizza twice. The first time, it was deep dish combination pizza. I killed part of the yeast by using too hot of water, so it did not rise well. Still, it rose enough that we could eat it, and so we did!

I checked the yeast, determined I was the problem and not the yeast, and made another batch, but this time, I made 2 flat crusts. I par-baked them for 5 minutes at 500 degrees F. and froze them. Tonight, I pulled one of them out of the freezer, topped it, and baked for 15 minutes at 500 degrees F.

I also made up a few baggies of the dry ingredients for the pizza and put them on the shelf for another time when I want to make it quickly. Now that I have the recipe working properly, I will post it soon.

Rob barbecued some steak. I sautéed some frozen shrimp. I also made turkey-burger meatloaf, which we ate a few times until it was gone. We ate the chicken we got last Friday at Costco, boiled the carcass and made broth, which turned into chicken and dumplings.

We ate several kinds of canned and frozen fruit, including frozen blueberries, which Patsy ate straight from a bowl while they were still frozen. She also had smoothies a couple of times and used more frozen fruit in those. I’m not exactly sure what else came out of all those empty jars that are waiting to be put away in the shop, but I know we enjoyed eating whatever was in them!

We had home-canned green beans, lots of carrots, and quite a few salads. We had baked potatoes a couple of times and Rob made home-shredded hash browns, too.

It was a very busy week, full of medical appointments, working extra time with the kids, and other things we did. I feel happy that I got as much cooking done as I did and that all of the dishes got done, too! (Rob can’t wash his fair share until after he recovers from one of his medical tests, so I’m merrily washing away. Every day. Every dish. Patsy dries and puts away. By the way, Rob is very, very fine–it was a great result, praise the Lord–and he’s trying not to laugh too loud about having to take a break from dishes and hauling firewood!).

Jake and Michaela ate dinner here tonight, and they had cinnamon sugar toast on whole wheat bread. (Under duress, she ate 1 baby carrot and Jake ate 2 cucumber slices) Jake wants to spend the night, but I took Michaela home because she wants to be there. While I was gone, Rob cooked eggs and eggs for Jake, and he topped off his evening with mini-marshmallows, washed down with grape juice. How’s that for a before-bed snack? Hmmm. I hope your meals were less eclectic!